City Council considers reducing meetings

The Marshalltown City Council is considering moving to two meetings a month.

The topic came up for discussion Monday at the City Council’s Committee of the Whole meeting. Mayor Tommy Thompson brought the idea up at the City Council’s previous meeting.

Thompson said other communities Marshalltown’s size have switched to two meetings a month to much success. He said two joint meetings a month where the council holds a Committee of the Whole and regular meeting following it would cut back on the time commitment of people serving on, and thinking about running for, council.

“I think we can handle the same businesses,” he said. “Time is of a concern for people looking at these positions.”

Bob Schubert, first-ward council member, questioned the reasoning for such a shift, saying that the current format is fine and a switch would only complicate things and deter public turnout. He said he could not support a two-meeting-a-month schedule.

Curt Ward, city attorney, said the proposed format would not change the notification process for publication of agendas and public hearings. Public hearings will still have to be published between four and 20 days prior to the hearing and the agenda for a public meeting would still have to be published at least 24 hours in advance.

Leon Lamer, at-large council member, said since there is often little discussion, the City Council could easily vote on topics after they discuss them. He said he would supports two meetings a month.

“That is because you are involved, so you are on top of it,” Schubert said to Lamer. “The public is not.”

Bethany Wirin, at-large council member, suggested using the regular council meeting to vote on the items discussed at the previous Committee of the Whole meeting.

Bob Wenner, at-large council member, said he would like the Committee of the Whole to follow the regular meeting so that the items to be voted on are taken care of first.

“It adds uncertainty,” Ward said of having the Committee of the Whole first. “Not everybody has the luxury of spending the whole two or three hours.”

Shari Coughenour, city clerk, said the agendas would be combined, but a two-meeting schedule is not anymore work on her end.

Marla Grabenbauer, third-ward council member, said she likes being able to have input from the various departments at once rather than having independent meetings, which she said adds burden on department heads. She said she would like to hear from the department heads what they prefer.

Schubert said cutting back the amount of meetings would deter public input, which is already low.

“I feel we have a good system right where we are at,” said Al Hoop, fourth-ward council member. “I would not favor a change.”

Bill Egleston, of Marshalltown, also spoke on the issue, saying he agreed with Council Members Schubert and Hoop.

Thompson asked that the specifications of a plan to switch be submitted to the City Council for its next meeting, but said the City Council would not likely vote on the topic until the following regular City Council meeting April 29.

Joel Greer, second-ward council member, was absent.